Blogging about Blogs, Part 5: On the Wards

This is the 5th in a 6 part series:“Blogging about blogs”, edited by Anthony Llewellyn (hetimeddir) and Teresa Chan (@TChanMD). Click on the following links to see previous posts on: Life in the Fast Lane; St. Emlyn’s; CanadiEM; and Emergency Medicine Cases.

This blog is an interview by Anthony Llewellyn with Evangelie Polyzos of onthewards.  The onthewards blog, podcast series, and now app was initially conceptualised by a group of #MedEd-ers at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, Australia to fill a gap in #FOAMed resources for prevocational doctors in Australia.

*Conflict of Interest declaration.  Anthony Llewellyn is also the CTO for onthewards but like most #FOAMers gains no financial profit from such a lofty title.

onthewards has about 10,000 site views per month.  On the site you are able to listen to and download podcasts, read podcast summaries as well as read topical blogs and provide comments.

The onthewards app allows you to download most of the content from the website, and favourite and utilise it on your smartphone even when not connected to the internet (handy when you are trying to save on data or have no access to wi-fi).

The key personnel involved in onthewards are James Edwards,  Evangelie Polyzos and Anthony Llewellyn


Q:  When did you start your blog?

A:  May 2014

Q: How many people are involved?

A: We have a core team of 10 with expanding contributions from over 35 junior doctors from across New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.  A number of consultants and specialists also contribute as interviewees for the podcasts.

Q: How would you describe your blog?

A:  A “community of practice” as James would most likely say…  Obviously it’s a medical education site for junior doctors and medical students across Australia.  We focus on and try to ‘tackle’ topical and relevant issues effecting Junior Medical Officers, as well as aiming to encourage audience participation (start a conversation/response/engagement by way of comments).

Our site also offers tips and guidance to medical students and JMOs on available career options and preparation required to follow a selected career path.

Q:  How would you describe your audience?

A: We know through linking to other platforms such as Facebook that we have an international audience of mainly junior medical officers and medical students, as well as nursing and allied health and Consultants and Specialists with an interest in #MedEd.  We find a number of online journals or commercial sites also show an interest in our work.

Q: Can you describe your process for generating content?

A:  We have an editorial team that contribute content – they generate ideas from online discussion. Individuals from the team read current medical literature and this inspires many of their blog topics.

We also identify individuals (internal and external) that may have a story to tell.  One of our current bloggers, a General Practitioner first came to our attention when she posted a comment about the lack of recognition for the role of GPs by ontheward doctors.

The editorial team discusses relevant bloggers and ask for contributions.  We also accept individuals that approach us with an idea for a post and an interest in contributing. The editorial team supports the development of each post by providing feedback/comments and further concepts for inclusion.

Q: What’s your technology stack (i.e. how do you host your site, how do you code it, do you have a CMS, do you use any integrations e.g. facebook, twitter, google etc…?)

A:  In the true spirit of #FOAM we host our own site on a U.S. server because its very cheap to do so (although we are now contemplating bringing it back to Australia).  We use Concrete5 as our Content Management System.  This is now the 4th most popular CMS and it has some benefits that we like over others such as WordPress.  It is particularly good with in-context editing (what you see is what you get).  It’s also the CMS Anthony is most familiar with.  We basically built our own site using a paid-for theme, some add-ons and a little bit of coding in PHP. We mirror our site on our native android and iOS app using the GoodBarber framework. We have integrations with Twitter, Facebook and Disqus (for comments) and we also find web apps like IFTTT and Zapier to be good free services for integrations.

Q:  What’s one interesting thing you have learnt through the process of developing a MedEd blog / website?

A:  I enjoy the collaboration.  I also enjoy the negotiation, and giving an individual a voice, encouraging them to contribute and then observing both their skills and confidence grow. Ask them, don’t tell them and watch as they engage and generate ideas… for free. 

Q: How do you optimize credit or personal recognition for your MedEd blogging activities? 

A:  When a blog is published it is accompanied by the blogger’s bio and photo.  Regular bloggers are credited as ‘guest contributors’ on the about page. The blurb attached to the Facebook posting of the article includes blogger’s name and position (sometimes also on Twitter).  We are thinking about issuing certificates of participation for the JMO’s curriculum vitaes.